Transgender Georgia inmate gets parole after suing prison officials

A transgender Georgia prisoner who had filed a lawsuit demanding hormonal treatments and safer housing was paroled Monday.

Ashley Diamond, 37, of Rome,was freed from the Augusta State Medical Prison just five days after the Southern Poverty Law Center filed additional documents supporting her motion for preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed in February.

The court papers included affidavits from transgender prisoners to support Diamond’s contention that the prison system continues to deny “appropriate care” to transgender inmates, the SPLC said.

“I’m overjoyed to be with my family again and out of harm’s way,” Diamond said in a SPLC statement. “Although the systematic abuse and assaults I faced for more than three years have left me emotionally and physically scarred, I’ll continue to fight for justice.”

Steve Hayes, spokesman for the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, said the parole had nothing to do with the lawsuit.

“After reviewing the offender’s parole case file the board determined the offender’s release is compatible with the welfare of society and public safety,” Hayes told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The parole board made the decision Aug 1, Hayes said. The SPLC said Diamond’s first parole hearing was scheduled for November and noted the Justice Department filed court papers supporting the lawsuit, contending Georgia had violated the U.S. Constitution in its polices regarding transgender inmates.

Diamond, a male who identifies as female, had been serving more than three years of an 11-year burglary sentence. She filed the lawsuit in February, claiming she had been sexually assaulted eight times in male prisons and denied a the hormone treatments she had received for 17 years to develop female characteristics before imprisonment.

In retaliation, she contends, officials moved her to Georgia State Prison in Reidsville, a maximum security facility with more dangerous inmates.

In April a federal judge in Macon declined to order prison officials to take additional steps to ensure Diamond's protection, citing steps already taken.

On July 30, Diamond filed court papers arguing an inmate was threatening retaliation because she had reported a sexual assault.

“Being forced to change my gender and live as male makes me feel like I am already dead,” Diamond said.